Unit 6- the Roaring Twenties

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Unit 6- The Roaring Twenties

Adjusting to the Peace 1919-1921

  • America returned to foreign policy of isolationism

  • Immediately after the war, Americans experienced a temporary recession as businesses adjusted from a wartime to a peacetime economy

Red Scare

  • Americans were frightened by the triumph of Communism in Russia led to Red Scare in USA

  • Fear of Communist Revolutions in US

  • Palmer Raids—Attorney General Palmer arrested thousands of suspects and deported them

Trial of Sacco & Vanzetti

  • Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti—convicted and executed of a robbery in part because of the hysteria against foreigners

Rise of Nativism and Racism

  • Nativism and racism were also on the rise as US retreats into a traditional isolationist foreign policy

  • Distrust of Foreigners (White Protestant American superiority)

  • Rise of the KKK (Hostile to Jews, Catholics, immigrants and African Americans)

Three Republican Presidents: Harding, Coolidge, Hoover

Policies favoring business

  • Lower taxes on corporations (lower taxes for the rich & corporations, shifts to middle class)

  • High protective tariffs (Hawley-Smoot Tariff—highest tariff in US history, used to keep foreign goods out)

  • lax enforcement of Antitrust laws and regulations (allowed to merge without govt regulation)

The Harding Administration 1921-1923

  • Sought a “Return to Normalcy” after WWI (emphasis on domestic policy & economic prosperity in US)

  • Administration beset by corruption with various scandals

  • Teapot Dome Scandal--leased govt land rich in oil to business friends for a bribe

The Coolidge Administration 1923-1929

  • No right to strike against the public safety (Police strike of 1919)

  • Believed business of America is business

  • Strong pro business policies

  • Allowed large business expansion

The Hoover Administration 1929-1933

  • Engineer who organized food production in World War I

  • Secretary of Commerce

  • As president predicted an end to poverty which helped get him elected

  • Believed in “rugged individualism” spirit that made US a great nation (equal opportunity, free education, will to suceed)

  • Strongly Pro business (raised US standard of living)

  • Felt that govt interference in the economy should be minimal (cause corruption & extinguish opportunity)

Reasons for Prosperity of the 1920s

The Rise of the Automobile

  • Cars allowed greater mobility to people (vacations, suburbs, schooling)

  • Stimulated other industries (gas, rubber, steel)

  • Single most important factor for prosperity of 1920’s

  • Henry Ford—early auto manufacturer who pioneered new production techniques such as assembly line to lower car prices and bring car ownership within reach of most Americans

  • Model T priced at under $300 per car, allowed everyone to afford a car

New Industries

  • Electricity and electrical appliances stimulate economy:

  • radio

  • motion picture

  • vacuum cleaners

  • Created new jobs and changed the way Americans lived


  • Glenn Curtiss—aviation pioneer who developed airplanes that landed on water

More Efficient Production Techniques

  • Assembly line

  • Standardized parts

  • Conveyer belt

  • Increased efficiency and production speed, did away with skilled workers

Age of Mass Consumption

  • Advertising stimulated demand (higher wages and leisure time lead to mass purcahsing)

  • Retailers introduced installment buying & buying on credit

Age of Mass Consumption

  • Advertising stimulated demand (higher wages and leisure time lead to mass purcahsing)

  • Retailers introduced installment buying & buying on credit

Speculation Boom & Uneven Prosperity

  • Corporate profits led stock prices to rise

  • Many Americans began to speculate in the stock market and real estate in the hopes of getting rich

  • Top 1% controlled almost 50% of wealth in US

Cultural Values in Conflict in the 1920s (attempts to preserve traditional values)


  • Alcohol seen as cause of poverty & crime

  • Reformer Frances Willard was active in the Temperance and Women’s rights movement

  • Pressure led to the18th amendment in 1919 banning alcoholic drinks

  • Prohibition as a social experiment was a failure

  • Led to many people out of work, wrong to force morals on others, and rise of organized crime

  • 21st amendment ended prohibition in 1933

The Scopes “Monkey Trial” of 1925

  • Tennessee passed a law banning the teaching of evolution (John Scopes arrested for teaching evolution)

  • Led to national trial pitting traditional Fundamentalist values against Darwin’s Theory of Evolution

  • William Jennings Bryan vs Clarence Darrow

  • Fundamentalists vs Modernists

  • Clarence Darrow—represented Scopes at the “Monkey Trial” on evolution in 1925

  • William Jennings Bryan—helped prosecute John Scopes at the Monkey Trial

New Restrictions on Immigration

  • Growth in Nativist sentiment

  • Immigration acts of 1921, 1924, 1929, used to keep out immigrants from Southern & Eastern Europe

  • establish immigrant quotas for the 1st time


  • advocated improvement by breeding (superior race)

  • promote superior genetic characteristics and Social Darwinism

  • Used to advocate reducing immigration, forced sterilization, segregation, and marriage restrictions


  • 19th amendment gained right to vote

  • Created economic independence:

  • Women entering the workforce in large numbers and gained college educations

  • Led by young women “flappers”

  • greater independence in clothing (shorter & more revealing)

  • new morals and manners (smoke & drink in public)

Tin Pan Alley

  • Located in NYC

  • Emergence of new form of American Popular music (blues, jazz, ragtime mixed together)

  • Led to new song writers and new need to play songs at home

Youth and Lost Generation

  • Rejected desire for material wealth

  • Influenced by brutality of WWI, felt that US had become materialistic and lacked spirituality

  • Sinclair Lewis ridiculed American hypocrisy in his books Main Street & Babbitt

  • F. Scott Fitzgerald—his works such as The Great Gatsby, captured the spirit of the Jazz Age and depicted the lifestyles of the young and materialistic rich in the 1920’s

  • Ernest Hemingway—wrote about experiences of WWI and the strength of youth in A Farewell to Arms and The Sun also Rises

The Great Migration

  • Millions of African Americans leave the south and migrate to northern and Midwestern cities during and after WWI

  • Went to look for jobs in industry and to escape racism

The Harlem Renaissance

  • Began with the Rise of Jazz music

  • Led to new optimism and growth of African American culture

  • Harlem, New York became cultural center of the Harlem Renaissance

  • Langston Hughes (Poet and Novelist)—wrote about pride in black heritage and attacked racism

  • Alain Locke: Black Historian who collected works of Harlem Renaissance

  • Zora Hurston: wrote Their Eyes Watching God

  • All celebrated black culture and value through their works

Marcus Garvey

  • Wanted African Americans to organize for freedom

  • Believed in black self help by owning businesses

  • Leader of Back to Africa Movement

Rise of Popular new Heroes

  • More leisure time in 1920’s leads to greater need for entertainment and heroes to identify with

  • Charles Lindbergh-first person to fly solo across the Atlantic ocean

  • Became an international hero

  • Sports stars like Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey serve as role models

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